Today, the fifth day of the fifth month of the Chinese lunar calendar, is The Dumpling Festival, or The Dragon Boat Festival.
A dragon boat is a paddle boat that is traditionally made of teak wood to various designs and sizes. The designs are usually brightly decorated with the front end shaped like open-mouth dragons, and the back end a scaly tail.
The Dragon Boat Festival is also known as the DuanWu Festival in China. Apparently, along with the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival and Chinese New Year, the Dragon Boat Festival is one of the most significant in China, celebrated by colorful and lively races featuring narrow boats shaped like dragons.
It is a traditional holiday that commemorates the life and death of Qu Yuan (Chu Yuan), a poet and statesman of the Chu Kingdom in 278 BCE.
Legend has it that Qu Yuan, despaired at the state of the government committed suicide by jumping into the Miluo River.
Upon hearing the news, the locals raced out in boats to save him, pounding drums to scare away any fish or creature in the water that might attack him. Others threw rice into the river for the same purpose – to distract the fishes and creatures which might be inclined to take a bite at Qu Yuan. However, despite their efforts, they were not able to save him.
Since then, boat races and ceremonial sacrifices of rice were performed each year to commemorate this valiant attempt to rescue Qu Yuan. On this day, people eat rice dumplings to symbolize the rice offerings, and hold dragon boats races. Entire regattas of dragon boats compete to see who is the swiftest as individual rowing teams keep in time with drummers pounding out furious rhythms.
The ‘zongzi’, or rice dumpling is steamed glutinous rice wrapped in bamboo leaves. The fillings are usually a mix of rice with sweet or savory flavors of pork, walnuts, mushrooms. Other variations of the ingredients include using yam paste, beans, and dates.
If you are a vegetarian, or if you do not like to eat meat, you can use peas and beans for fillings instead.
Traditionally, families would make their own zòngzi, but with lifestyles becoming increasingly busy, and people more affluent, people tend to buy ready made ones. Besides, making rice dumplings is a lot of work and takes up a lot of time. With everything so commercialised these days, it is easier to just go and buy a few.
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